Urias picks right time to shine for Dodgers

Urias picks right time to shine for Dodgers

WASHINGTON -- With the champagne flowing in the Dodgers clubhouse following a series-clinching victory over the Nationals on Thursday night, the winning pitcher stood in the middle of it all, empty handed, grinning from ear to ear.

There were no bottles for Julio Urias to pop. After all, he only turned 20 on Aug. 12 -- the youngest pitcher to ever win a postseason game, in fact.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 15 CHC 8, LAD 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 16 LAD 1, CHC 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 18 LAD 6, CHC 0 video
Gm 4 Oct. 19 CHC 10, LAD 2 video
Gm 5 Oct. 20 CHC 8, LAD 4 video
Gm 6 Oct. 22 CHC 5, LAD 0 video

Urias played no small part in the Dodgers' thrilling, 4-3 victory in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. He kept the Nationals off the board in the fifth and sixth innings, before Los Angeles jumped on top with a four-run seventh. In the process, Urias became the first player under 21 to pick up a playoff win since Francisco Rodriguez did so in 2002 -- and the first Dodger since Fernando Valenzuela in the 1981 World Series.

"As a kid I would dream of moments like this, but you don't know if it ever really happens," Urias said through a team interpreter. "To be here, it's a dream come true."

The Dodgers advance to face the Cubs on Saturday in the NL Championship Series at Wrigley Field at 8 p.m. ET/5 PT on FS1.

Urias' win didn't come without a bit of controversy, however. After retiring the first two batters he faced in the fifth, he walked Nationals slugger Bryce Harper -- only to pick him off at first base.

His move raised some eyebrows, however. According to Rule 8.05, "If a left-handed or right-handed pitcher swings his free foot past the back edge of the pitcher's rubber, he is required to pitch to the batter except to throw to second base on a pick-off play."

Nelson on Urias' pickoff move

Urias' free foot certainly came close to crossing that imaginary line. But in the eyes of the umpiring crew, it was a clean throw to first base and not a balk.

Dodgers postseason gear

Of course, an elite pickoff move is nothing new for Urias, who picked off six baserunners during the regular season.

"He just has like five different moves, and they're all really good," said Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. "He's got two that are incredible. He just has an ability to read the runner and throw a different twist in there. All of them are so good, but at the same time, they're not balks."

Urias ended the sixth on yet another Nationals baserunning blunder, as Jayson Werth was thrown out at the plate on Ryan Zimmerman's double. Before that, Urias had induced flyouts from Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon.

Reddick's nice adjustment

"He didn't back down from the challenge," said Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal. "When he came in, the other team probably felt like he was just going to nibble, maybe not throw strikes. He went right at them. ... In his just short amount of time in the big leagues, he's grown so much. It makes me very excited to see him in the future."

That future is undoubtedly bright. Urias, who was rated the club's No. 1 prospect at midseason, has thrown only 77 Major League innings, posting a 3.39 ERA with 84 strikeouts.

He's the youngest pitcher to appear in a postseason game since Don Gullett did so in the 1970 World Series.

"This kid is 20 years old -- I checked the birth certificate," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts quipped. "For him not to pitch in two weeks and get us some big outs, this kid doesn't scare off."

Urias checked on, stays in game

The past three days couldn't have been easy on Urias -- who was rumored as the potential starter for both Games 4 and 5, before ceding that title to Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, respectively.

When he came to Nationals Park on Thursday, Urias had no clue when -- or in what capacity -- he'd be pitching. When he left, he was the youngest pitcher to ever earn a victory in the playoffs -- not that he's too concerned with that record.

"A couple [people] told me, but I leave personal things aside," Urias. "Don't think about that right now. The important part is to celebrate and take in this victory."

And he didn't need champagne to do that.

AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.